Teacher Enoch Burke will today face a bid from his school to seize his property, following his continued refusal to obey a court order that he stay away.
The move is the next step available to Wilson’s Hospital School, after a prolonged stay in prison for contempt of court apparently failed to convince Mr Burke to remain on administrative leave.
He had been suspended and placed on paid leave by the Co Westmeath school in August, following a row over a transgender student.
The teacher allegedly shouted at and harassed the school principal at a public event following a request that staff use the preferred pronouns of the student.
He has said he could not do this, as transgenderism did not accord with his Christian belief that there are only two genders, male and female.
When he continued to attend the school last term, his employers went to the High Court to obtain an order that he stay away and not teach there, pending the outcome of disciplinary proceedings.
He breached that order, and was sent to Mountjoy prison for contempt of court.
He was finally released over Christmas, despite not purging his contempt, as the High Court concluded that Mr Burke was exploiting his imprisonment for his own purposes.
Mr Burke has since turned up at the Church of Ireland secondary school every day this term, in defiance of the continued court order that he stay away and not attempt to teach there.
The school’s barrister, Rosemary Mallon BL, told the court yesterday that her client was not seeking to have him imprisoned again for contempt, but that it would be seeking the temporary sequestration of his assets.
It was an option outlined as a possibility by Judge Brian O’Moore when he released Mr Burke last month.
He said that if Mr Burke breached the court order again, the school could come back to court to seek his attachment and committal, the sequestration of his assets, or any other appropriate measure.
The judge also said that complying with the orders would not in any way compromise or require Mr Burke to do anything in breach of his religious beliefs.
He said the orders did not oblige Mr Burke to address anyone in a particular way. They simply prohibited him from entering the school’s premises or interfering with the school’s educational activities.
If the school is successful today, it could hold possession of Mr Burke’s assets until he clears his contempt, or further court orders are given.
There are rare circumstances in which a court can order a sequestrator to sell personal property or land.
Judge Tony Hunt granted the school permission to serve notice of its intended action on Mr Burke yesterday.
The full application will be made today, as Mr Burke was already due back before the court this morning on a different matter.
He will make his own request for an injunction to stop the school from holding a disciplinary meeting on January 19, concerning its allegation of misconduct by him.
‘It seems to make perfect sense for all matters arising from this saga to be dealt with at the same time,’ the judge said.
Last Friday, Mr Burke who teaches German, History and debating, told reporters outside the Multyfarnham school that he was continuing to assert his right to his religious beliefs.
He said: ‘I came to school this morning to teach and I was standing in the corridor for the day. I have not done anything wrong. I am simply awaiting reinstatement in my classroom.’
The school has assured parents that classes and school activities are continuing as normal.